Human RightsNational

Absence of effective law on domestic violence compounds women’s miseries

PESHAWAR: Fed up with her 13-year long unhappy marriage, Gulalai finally decides to move a local family court to sever a relationship based on expediencies and compromises rather than on love and mutual respect.
“It was a routine matter for my husband and in-laws to subjecting me to both mental and physical torture whenever I refused to give them money or delayed it,” says Gulalai. She works as a makeup artist, which is the major source of her household budget.

Gulalai , a victim of domestic violence, narrating his story to Peshawar Today

Apart from torture, the cosmetologist believes that the environment she was forced to live in was adversely affecting the personality and education of her two children, Sumaiya, 11, and Zayan, 8.
In the patriarchal society we are living in, she is not the only woman who suffers domestic violence by her spouse and in-laws.
Statistics compiled by the Aurat Foundation, a non-profit organization focusing on women rights, shows that more than 180 cases of domestic violence were reported in the first eight months of 2017. As many as 103 of them were of murder, 22 of honour killing, 22 of suicides, 19 of kidnapping and 14 cases of burning women.
Similarly, data compiled by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in year of 2017 on the matter shows that 165 cases of women domestic violence were reported in KP. Out of which 79 cases were of beating, 7 of acid attack, 26 of set on fire and 23 of honour killing.
Observers strongly believe that the cases of domestic violence are much higher than those recorded because a large number of such cases go unreported.
The HRCP data shows that only 79 complaints out of these cases were registered with the concerned police stations.
Astonishingly enough, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the only province that does not have a law dealing with the domestic violence. The government, after consultation with human rights activists and legal experts, prepared a draft bill in 2016. The bill was later sent it to Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) for review. Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), a partner of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf-led coalition government, was behind the idea of sending the draft bill to the CCI: the first of its kind in the history of Pakistan which a legislature sent to the CII for review.
The CCI rejected the bill terming the draft legislation contradictory to Islamic injunctions. The provincial government then assigned a committee of female lawmakers of the provincial legislature to make changes in it in accordance with the objections raised by the CII. The committee, headed by JI’s Member of the Provincial Assembly (MPA) Rashida Riffat, took another year to finalize the draft legislation: Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) bill.
The amended draft, however, did not strike a responsive chord with the women rights organizations and activists. They dubbed the bill as useless and meaningless piece of legislation.
Aurat Foundation Resident Director Shabina Ayaz while talking to the Peshawar Today says that the draft bill makes no mention of the protection of women against violence.

Aurat Foundation Resident Director Shabina Ayaz while talking to the Peshawar Today

Comparatively, she says, the draft rejected by the CCI was more powerful and good for women rights. In the new bill, the word “vulnerable “is used for disabled and elder people while there is no mention of the transgender and women in the bill, she argues.
The rights activist fears that instead of countering women violence the proposed bill, if promulgated, would increase violence against the women.
Provincial Commission on Status of Women (PCSW) Chairperson Neelam Khan Toru disagrees with Ayaz. Being involved in the process, Toru informs the Peshawar Today that the proposed legislation not only safeguards the rights of women but also ensures their protection.
“We proposed punishment even for those levelling baseless allegations against women,” she contends, adding that the proposed law envisages the formation of a protection committee and a special court to protect women rights. A protection officer will also be

PCSW Chairperson Neelam Khan Toru appraising government for pro women legislation

appointed at tehsil level to ensure provision of free legal aid to victims of domestic violence, she says.
Ayaz, on the other hand, is of the view that the bill deals with physical and sexual violence only. “Psychological abuse is not included in the definition of domestic violence.”
She also raises objection over Section 22 of the draft bill which reads: “Nothing in this Act applies to corrective measures taken by parents or spouses within the constraints of the injunction of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.”
The proposed law, Ayaz says, has not defined the ‘corrective measure’, leaving it to the judges concerned who may define it in a manner having an adverse effect on women.
Similarly, she points out, the age of a child in the bill is defined as 15 years or younger. “This is a problematic definition which contradicts national laws such as the Child Marriages Restraint Act, 1929 and international conventions and treaties to which Pakistan is a signatory,” she says.
As per UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a child is defined as a person below 18 years of age, she argues.

PML-N MPA Amna Sardar explaining the new draft of women domestic violence bill

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MPA Amna Sardar tells the Peshawar Today that Khyber Pakthunkhwa Law Department seems hesitant to give a go-ahead even to the amended draft of the bill. “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has sent draft legislation to the Law Department which is constantly delaying it without any reason.”
Interestingly, the Peshawar Today has learnt through a well-placed source in the Law Department that its legal section has raised objections over some sections of the draft bill.
“The draft bill has some legal complications which are under discussion,” he says. Giving an example, he says that the bill carries a word ‘stalking’ defining it as following, watching, pursuing or accosting a person against his/her wish. It means, he adds, watching to wife without her wish is also a crime in the bill which is not realistic in their society, he said. “The draft bill does not seem to get the nod at least before the end of the incumbent government’s tenure.”
Mehar Taj Roghani, Deputy Speaker of the Provincial Assembly, however, hoped that her government will pass the bill very soon. “I personally asked the Law Department to review the bill as soon as possible so we could pass it from the assembly before ending tenure of the current government,” she told Peshawar Today.
Riffat, however, defends the CCI decision to reject the previous draft. While talking to the Peshawar Today, she says there were some “un-Islamic clauses” in the previous draft. “We have removed all those sections from the draft on which the CII had raised objections. According to Constitution, no law shall be made against the spirit of Islam,” she says.
Ayaz explicitly says that in the presence of religio-political parties in the government setup, she does not expect any legislation aimed at protecting women rights including domestic violence bill. “It is better to have no special law instead of this proposed law.” She says that currently various issues of the women are dealt under the criminal law. The proposed law, she fears, would not ensure protection of women but grant legal ways to exploit their rights. “The CCI encouraged the forces who do not want to empower and promote the interest of women.”
Abdul Lateef Afridi, a senior lawyer based in Peshawar, tells the Peshawar Today that CII is not a legislative body to recommend amendments to the draft law. “CCI has only the constitutional right to review the law whether it is against the spirit of Islam only after it is passed by a legislative body.”
It was sent to the CII apparently to appease the right-wing Jamaat-i-Islami which is a coalition partner.
Owing to the absence of effective legislation on gender-based violence (GBV), women who are subjected to domestic violence usually do not get justice on time, which is why most of the women do not want to get involved in time-consuming process of litigation. This actually favours the people like Gulalai’s spouse, Jahandad Khan, to keep on torturing their wives.

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  1. PTI officials claiming of making record laws but we see there is no laws or bills for women, minority, child related issues. is it ignoring these sections of society?

  2. Again a great case study and highlighted a very important issue of our society and laws. the implementation will take time as our rule of law program gets strengthen. Thank you so much Peshawar Today and the editor for covering important issues related to women and women laws and also the flaws in it and the need for making new laws which protect women. I wish Peshawar Today team a very best luck.

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